Monday, March 25, 2013

8 weeks, baby!

As you know, one of my goals for 2013 was to eat "clean" for 8 weeks.  "Clean" means different things for different people, as I've found out through my research.  So here's what it meant for ME:  No flour, no sugar, no processed foods (kind of).  I did have a few processed foods, in that they were made in a factory, but I tried to stay away from foods that had unrecognizable, unhealthy, or unpronouncable (real word?) ingredients.  For example, I still used bottled spaghetti sauce in my vegetable beef soup.  But that was probably my most "processed" food I had the entire 8 weeks.
Steel cut oats with strawberries, pecans and cinnamon from BreadCo

 Okay, moving on... so as I've just finished the 8 weeks, I thought I'd offer a retrospective of what I've learned, what worked for me, what was difficult for me... and to be honest, this is mostly for my benefit... so I can look back and remember what worked and what didn't if I struggle in the future.  I am still nowhere NEAR an expert on clean eating, but I feel I'm certainly an expert on what has worked for ME in the last 8 weeks.

First of all, the difficulties...  There were some times that were more difficult than others.  The most difficult times:

  • The first two weeks of eating clean... period.  My body craving unhealthy things like mad, I didn't know which ingredients to have on-hand to help with cravings, and 8 weeks felt like forever away.
  • Grocery shopping while hungry... this is something I've always tried to stay away from, but it seems even more difficult while eating clean.  I could smell the bakery from all the way across the store, it seemed like!  But if I was full while shopping, it wasn't nearly the temptation as it was when I was hungry!
  • My hormonal time of month... enough said!
  • When I was caught off-guard with tempting "treats."  If I knew ahead of time I was going to a party with lots of unhealthy foods, I would fill up with clean foods before I went... it was those times when I wasn't expecting to see "yummies" that were more difficult for me.
  • If I wasn't fully stocked on healthy snack foods, I was more tempted to eat unhealthily.
  • If one of my "trigger foods" that I love were staring me right in the face.  For example, when my kids are finished eating Goldfish (which I LOVE), I put them right back in the pantry rather than leaving them out on the kitchen table for a while.  Too tempting!
  • Road trips!  Oh my goodness... I had no idea how much I "let loose" on road trips.  I packed a TON of seeds, nuts, fruit and raw veggies for the trip, but I still wanted Twizzlers and Fritos (my road trips snacks, apparently).

For me, the key to dealing with the difficulties is knowing when/what my triggers are, and trying my best to plan for them.
Steak Bites from Pioneer Woman and roasted green beans

So, then, if there were such difficult times, why do clean eating at all?  First of all, I have had issues with food for the last 3 years or so.  I know that dairy is a trigger food for me (makes me ill), but I still frequently feel awful after eating.  So, I wanted to cut out all the "bad" foods to see how I felt... if I felt any different, if I felt better...  I tried eating paleo last year (no grains at all... only meat, beans, nuts, eggs and seeds), but that was also too harsh for my body.  My gall bladder went CRAZY... and I think it's mostly the nuts.  So even now, I have to limit my nut consumption.  So I wanted to see if I felt better.  Secondly, I wanted to see if I lost any weight (I tried not to make that be my foremost reason... but it was honestly one of the reasons).  I have worked out regularly for the last year and a half, and while my body has changed a lot for the better, I haven't lost a pound.  So I thought that my nutrition was the next logical way to take control of my body.

So, what did I eat?

  • Meats - We just bought a 1/4 cow, organic, grass-fed, etc.  So, I do a lot of beef.  Chicken.  Turkey.  Fish.  Some pork.
  • Eggs - Again, my body doesn't always handle whole eggs well, so I normally have scrambled egg whites.  I buy farm fresh eggs from my niece who raises them.  I do occasionally eat whole-egg omelets, but maybe only once a week.
  • Nuts - see above.  I don't eat a ton of them, but I will occasionally have them in something else I'm eating (for example, when I make my Coconut Curry Chicken, sometimes I'll put a few cashews on top).  I also discovered a natural "protein bar," called Larabar.  It is made of ONLY nuts and fruit.  My favorite is the cashew cookie, which is made of only cashews and dates.  It's a good snack when I need to take something on-the-go.
  • Seeds - I stick mostly with sunflower seeds.  I put them on my salads a lot.  I also eat natural sunflower butter.  It does contain a little sugar, but I can't eat natural nut butter, so this is what I eat with apples a LOT.  I also put chia seeds in my oatmeal every morning, and they are also in my vegan protein powder.
  • Clean eating allows for natural grains, such as oats, potatoes (some clean eaters don't eat white potatoes, but I did on a limited basis), sweet potatoes, brown rice and whole wheat (although I didn't have any whole wheat during my 8 weeks, because I keep reading about GMOs and how wheat is actually a genetically modified grain... so I decided to cut it out as well).
  • Oils - I only use olive oil or coconut oil.  I also use avocados for another healthy fat option.
  • Dairy - again, I can't handle dairy.  So I use a lot of coconut milk.  I did buy the bigger containers of coconut milk until my friend pointed out to me that the bigger containers of a LOT of "healthy" foods and drinks contain Carrageenan (I linked to one article about it if you click on the name).  As I'm working really hard to stay away from the bad stuff, I think it's important for me to stay away from this as well.  So I buy the cans of Light Coconut Milk (found in the Asian food aisles typically).  These are more expensive than the large containers, but they have much more natural ingredients (the full-fat coconut milk and the light have the same ingredients... my understanding is that the full-fat milk just contains more coconut cream than the light version).  I use coconut milk in my smoothies, heated up in my coffee (for a treat), and in place of milk in recipes (I even used it for mashed potatoes, and my kids loved it!).  Almond milk (unsweetened) is another great alternative for dairy, but again... my issues with nuts have kept me away from that.  I keep hearing more and more about soy being genetically modified, so I've stayed MOSTLY away from soy products in this 8 weeks as well.
  • Beans - I use tons of black beans in my meals... I use chickpeas (the main ingredient in hummus... yum!).  Fresh green beans roasted are a favorite in my house.
  • Seasonings - I use lots of seasonings to make things more interesting.  I do use a little salt sometimes, either kosher or celtic sea salt.
  • Fruits - of course!
  • Vegetables - again, of course!
  • Honey - in moderation, this is the only sweetener I've used.  
A smoothie, before and after being blended.

Tricks that have helped me:

  • I cook a lot of meat at once (sometimes in the crockpot... sometimes on the stove), then use the leftovers until they're gone.  I use the leftovers for omelets, and for Mexican bowls (I put baby spinach, my meat, some brown rice, black beans, avocado, and a little salsa on top in one big bowl), which I frequently eat for lunch.
  • I order a product basket from a local co-op once every two weeks.  That helps ensure that I have produce always available.
  • I made smoothies, and drink half immediately and save the other half for later.  (a typical smoothie has spinach, carrots, kale, apples, frozen mixed berries, sometimes protein powder, sometimes almonds, coconut milk and/or coconut water)  A quick story of something that DIDN'T work for me:  I read about using raw eggs (as long as they were organic, farm-fresh ones) in your smoothie.  I finally tried it last night and felt so disgusting the rest of the evening (could have been all in my head, but I did feel bad!) that I'll not try that again.  Don kept calling me Rocky all night.
  • I eat a HUGE breakfast.  This keeps me from overeating the rest of the day.  I have oatmeal (I use old-fashioned...  1/2 cup of oats, cooked in 1 cup of water... 2:45 in my microwave), then add frozen berries, chia seeds and a touch of honey.  I also have 3 scrambled egg whites.  And black coffee, of course (I did NOT cut out my coffee).
  • When I really crave something sweet at night (which is when I typically crave sweets), I fix a cup of decaf tea and add a touch of honey.  It's enough to make me feel better.
  • I've been shopping in the gluten-free section of the grocery store for some things.  I found brown-rice pasta there that only contains ground brown rice and flax seed.  It was decent tasting, and fulfilled my craving for pasta.  I also found gluten-free crackers (haven't tried them yet... they might be disgusting) for those times I want a crunch.
Homemade sweet potato "chips" - sliced thinly then roasted with olive oil in the oven.

Eating out:

  • I try not to do a lot of it anymore, but I have found some things that work for me.  At our FAVORITE Mexican restaurant (which we eat at every Sunday almost), my favorite waitress helped me come up with my meal.  First of all, I put my giant glass of water directly in front of the chips so I don't accidentally mindlessly grab them.  Then I order grilled tilapia with guacamole, pico de gallo, and beans w/out cheese, and a side of green salsa.  It is DELICIOUS!
  • My other favorite kind of food is Thai food.  And thai recipes typically use coconut milk instead of dairy milk in a lot of their dishes.  So as long as I order brown rice with my meal, I usually can order green curry or red curry and it is "clean."  YUM!
  • At everywhere else, I stick with plain meats and steamed veggies or else a salad with no cheese or croutons with oil/vinegar on top.
An egg white omelet with spinach, mushrooms and chipotle pork

So was it worth it?

  • For me, YES!  I can't even tell you how much better my body feels now.  I was so used to being bloated a majority of the time that I can't believe how little I am bloated now!  I also rarely have the gastro-intestinal issues I did before after almost every meal.  So that's HUGE (no bloating pun intended).
  • I lost 8.6 pounds in 8 weeks.  Again, awesome!  :)
  • I feel like my entire family is eating healthier, so that's a big deal as well.  While I don't always make my kids eat what I'm eating (they HATE spicy foods), I am cooking much more frequently which means they are eating what I've cooked way more than they did before.

Spring mix salad with leftover turkey, grape tomatoes, avocados and lemon juice
So, what now?

  • Now I keep eating this way.  It's become a habit at this point (which is great), AND I feel like it would be foolish NOT to eat this way when I feel so much better doing so.
  • But, I'll have a cheat meal once a week now.  My next step is figuring out how to balance this new lifestyle into my forever reality...  because I do intend for this to be my new reality.  But that doesn't mean I won't ever eat another chocolate chip cookie... or whatever that "thing" is.  Like today, I'm planning on having 2 pieces of dark chocolate, which is what I've been craving.  Then I'm eating clean again the rest of the week until Easter dinner.  That'll be my one cheat meal for that week.  And on and on and on.

So, that's it.  My 8 week story.  I'm still looking for new ideas, new recipes, new encouragement.  ;)

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

3 weeks in...

Alternate title:  This post is dedicated to my mother who thinks maybe I didn't eat last week since I didn't post my meal plan.  ;)

So, I'm three weeks in to my 8 week goal of eating clean.  And I'm happy to report that I haven't cheated.  :)

In all honesty, as long as I prepare and have accessible foods available, I don't really struggle.  My toughest times are at the grocery store (the smells from the bakery are delectable!), anytime I pass a St@rbucks (I'm only human!), and when I'm not expecting to be faced with yummy temptations.  I've gone to 2 birthday parties and 1 bridal shower and I did fine at all those places because I was expecting to be faced with sweets, etc.  But we had cupcakes at church one night, and I was really struggling that night emotionally (although I *did* resist).

Someone asked me how I felt after this long of eating clean.  I really thought I'd have all this amazing energy.  And that's not really the case.  But on the other hand, I've not been lethargic either.  And I haven't felt sick or yucky at all after eating hardly at all since I started eating clean.  Before this, I usually had some sort of gastro issues at least 5 out of 7 days a week.  And I've only had issues maybe 3-4 times total in the last 3 weeks.  So that's huge!  I've also lost 4 pounds in the last 3 weeks.  Weight loss wasn't my main goal in trying this, but it's an exciting side-benefit!  :)

I try not to eat out much, but I have figured out ways to still eat clean when I DO eat out.  And this past weekend, I ate out a LOT!  At my favorite Mexican restaurant, I bypass the chips (I put my water glass in front of the basket so I don't accidentally mindlessly grab any chips), and I get their grilled tilapia with pico de gallo, guacamole and green salsa.  It's delicious!  And I've been eating Thai food a lot while out, because I can get my curry fix made with coconut milk (which is clean) and brown rice.  YUM!

I'm late in making my meal plan for this week.  The kids were off school yesterday and Don had a meeting at church last night, so I just had leftovers for dinner last night (which was a pork tenderloin I cooked in the crockpot with chipotle peppers and green chiles... it's delicious!  (Thanks, Becky, for the idea!)  I had it with brown rice, baby spinach and black beans with a little avocado sliced on top).

So, here's the plan for this week:

Tuesday:  Pork Tenderloin cooked this way minus the glaze (it's my new favorite way to make tenderloin!) and roasted green beans/red potatoes

Wednesday:  Eating at church

Thursday:  Roasted turkey breast and roasted broccoli and/or cauliflower

Friday:  Leftover turkey (it's 7 pounds, so we'll be eating on that for a while) and roasted vegetables

Saturday:  Turkey/vegetable soup (I feel like we'll be sick of eating turkey by then)

Sunday:  Leftovers (Don has a race that day, so it'll just be the kids and I)

Have a great week!

Monday, February 4, 2013

Meal plan - Week of 2/4/2013

Hello there!  As of today, I'm back on the meal plan wagon.  (I feel like this is going to be a wagon that I'll easily jump off of and back on).

The week before last, we were on a cruise, so you can only imagine how yummy and decadent the food was there!  Then, last week, being the types of people we are, Don and I jumped into super strict eating.  I am eating "clean" (which means only "natural" foods... no processed foods, no enriched flour products, no sugar) and Don is eating Paleo (like my food, except no complex carbohydrates either (except for fruit)).  One of my goals this year was to eat clean for 8 weeks in a row to see how I feel.  So I'm one week in now.  I don't know that I feel much better yet (I think my body is still detoxing from ALL THAT BREAD I ate on the cruise), but I notice small things like my stomach doesn't "pooch" out quite so much.  Oh, and I lost 3 pounds this week!  (woot!)

So here's the meal plan for this week:

Monday - Pioneer Woman's Steak Bites and roasted fresh green beans
Tuesday - Curry Chicken (recipe below)
Wednesday - Taco night at church (so, I'll probably have some of the meat and add it to my salad I make from the salad bar and add my own olive oil/vinegar dressing)
Thursday - Chili
Friday - Mexican "buffet" (I'll cook extra lean ground beef on Thursday, then I'll have black beans, baby spinach, avocado, etc. so we can put together our own Mexican bowl... I'll probably add brown rice to mine as well).
Saturday - Italian beef
Sunday - leftovers

Here's my recipe for Curry Chicken.  I usually make a double batch ahead of time and freeze it until I'm ready to make it.  We've had it multiple times and it's one of our favorite meals (and definitely my favorite crockpot meal!).

Curry Chicken - Taken from Kojo Designs

IN THE BAG- 3 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs*, 2 lbs. of chopped butternut squash, 2 medium onions,chopped, 8 minced garlic cloves, 1 oz fresh ginger, 2 T curry powder,1 t ground coriander, 1 t ground cumin, coarse salt
You can fix up the "In the bag" portion ahead of time and freeze.  When you're ready to cook it, you do the remainder of the recipe.
TO COOK- Add the contents of the bag and a can of coconut milk to a slow cooker and cook on low all day. 25 minutes before serving, add another can of coconut milk and a bag of frozen peas.
TO SERVE- Garnish* with chopped cashews and cilantro (except if you’re us and you hate cilantro- then just garnish with cashews).
*I have always used the chicken thighs in the past, but I think I'm going to try it this week with chicken breasts.  I don't usually garnish it at all, but I serve it over brown rice.  It's delicious!
Have a great week!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Family Weekend, A-Z

A few years ago, I talked about our family weekend in list format, A-Z.  Because I'm lazy, I'm doing the same thing again for 2013.  (you can find my stories about previous years here:  2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2009 (again)).

So, here goes:

A - Alarm.  As in, smoke alarm.  As in, went off at least 8 times on Friday night.  As in, starting at 2:30 a.m.  My poor dad.  He was up almost all night trying to get them fixed.  They are all hard-wired together, so if one has a low battery, they all go off.  Super fun, right?

B - Bubba!!!  I have called Baby L Bubba since he was born (not sure why... I think I called Bub that when he was a baby, too...).  L's momma calls him that, too, but for whatever reason, he associates "Bubba" with me.  So now he calls ME Bubba.  Or Aunt Bubba.  Which cracks me up... because don't I seem like a Bubba?

C - Candlelight.  On Saturday evening, the entire town's power went out for about 2.5 hours.  LUCKILY, we were just finishing all the cooking for dinner, so we were fine on food (check out "F."  Food was very important, you know!).  So my dad pulled out a few battery-operated lanterns, and we lit a bunch of candles throughout the first floor).  It was actually fun.  Romantic candlelight dinner for 16!  ha.

D - Drawing...  Of course Sis always draws.  Wherever she is, on whatever she can find.  But Little Sissy was also really into drawing this particular weekend.  And she talked her Aunt Darla to drawing a lot, too... (it helped that she really, really thought I drew well... which of course I don't).  Then Little Buddy wanted to draw because so many others were drawing... well, you get the point.  It made it especially fun because Little Sissy had so many "smelly markers."  (I told her at Christmas that one of them smelled like Gas Station Soap, and she still thinks that's SO hilarious...)

E - Earaches.  My mom was really suffering from a terrible earache and I was recovering from an ear infection (along with strep and the flu), so we spent WAY too much time talking about earache remedies.  We are party animals!

F - Food.  Oh my goodness... food!  We would sit at one meal and start talking about when we were going to start cooking the next one.  Not even kidding.  We had Kim's (Bill's girlfriend) scrumptious homemade chocolate chip cookies, brownies, chips and homemade salsa, rye bread/dill dip... all in addition to our awesome meals.  So.  Full.

G - Games.  We played Quiddler, the kids played Trouble... we started to play 2 truths and 1 lie (we didn't get very far... we just started talking instead). We love games!

H - Home.  I actually snuck home (to MY home) to take a shower and change out the laundry.  That is CLEARLY against all family weekend by-laws and regulations, but I'm not gonna lie... it was nice not having as much laundry to catch up on when we were home for the weekend.  That's an advantage of living in the same town as my parents, right?

I - Instagram.  If a weekend isn't documented on Instagram, then it probably really doesn't happen.  Ha. Here's my kids' favorite new joke:  How much does a hipster weigh?  An Instagram!

J - Joy.  I'm filled with such joy when I'm with my favorite people... even when I'm tired, and/or sore, and/or exhausted!

K - Kids, kids everywhere!  Sometimes the noise got a little intense, but I'm telling you... without the kids we wouldn't have near as much fun!  They keep the party going for sure!

L - Library.  Sis wanted to run to the library, so we took Big Sissy, Little Sissy and Little Buddy with us.  I told them they could all pick out a movie that they all agreed on to rent at Nana and Papa's house. That didn't work, so then I told them that the girls could pick out one, and Little Buddy could pick out a different one for him and Baby L to watch.  That didn't work either, so they each ended up getting their own movie to rent.  Yay!!

M - Milk... MAN, my family goes through some milk!  My dad bought gallons and gallons of milk before we even showed up, and my brother-in-law had to go buy some more before the weekend was over.  Of course, I didn't drink any (throwing up wasn't on my agenda for the weekend), but the rest of the family sure did!

N - Noise!  'Nuf said.  ;)

O - Overeating.  Overstimulation.  Overdoing the laughter.  And I loved it!

P - Piano.  Big Sissy is taking piano lessons, so she practiced quite a bit over the weekend.  And played around.  And then Baby L would want his turn.  He would sit and "play" the piano while bobbing his head to his own music.  So cute!

Q -  Quiddler (I think it's spelled this way) was our newest game we played this year.  We usually find one or two games and stick with them the entire weekend.  We didn't play as many games this year, but this is the one we played.  Fun!

R - Range... the men and Bub went to the Shooting Range, as they do every year.  They shoot clay pigeons or something that isn't alive.  Bub is just counting down the years until he's old enough to participate.  My brother-in-law, Kevin, who never grew up shooting, is apparently quite the shooting rock star.  Then they all bring home their paper targets to show off to us women.  Cute.  ;)

S - Shopping.  Once the guys get home from shooting, then it's our turn.  The women and Sis always make big plans to go an hour away or so to REALLY shop.  And then when it's really time to shop, we always decide we don't have enough time for that kind of shopping.  So, we do more local shopping.  Sis and I hit the bookstore while everyone else hits Michaels.  Then we all meet in the middle at Old Navy for some clearance shopping.

T - Talking.  I'm surprised any of us had voices left once the weekend was over!  ;)

U - Ugly.  Haha.  You'll notice I don't have any photos posted.  That's because we girls don't wear makeup, none of us really fix our hair...  maybe UGLY is an overstatement... but then again, maybe not!  Ha.

V - Valuable memories.  Can't beat 'em!!!

W - Words to live by.  One of my favorite moments in time was when we sat around the table Sunday afternoon (Billy and Kim were already gone, and my kids were already up from the table), and we all gave some words to live by in 2013.  I posted about them here.

X - E(X)ercise (give me a break... we didn't play any xylophones all weekend, and thankfully needed no Xanax... so Exercise is the closest I could come up with).  Don, Bub and I do a circuit workout just about every Saturday with the fitness group we work out with.  Last year my brother and one of my brother-in-laws came with us.  Neither of them came with us this year, but both of my sisters and my other brother-in-law all came (as well as our might-as-well-be-family friend, Cara).  We had so much fun all working out together.  Even if Christy did need to use both hands to cut her sausage the next morning because she was so sore!  :)

Y - YouTube.  One night we stayed up late and showed our mom all the funny YouTube videos that have become sensations ("hide your kids, hide your wife").

Z - Zzzzzzzzzzzz's.  Sleep is sooo good, especially AFTER a weekend like this one.  But little catnaps here and there were also (apparently) good.  I don't nap well, so I didn't partake, but there was plenty of snoring going on from the couch (Kevin!!!!!).

Monday, January 14, 2013

Meal Plan - week of 1/13/13

So, I'm being lazy on my meal plan for this week.  We're leaving town on Friday and will be gone all next week, so I'm just using up what we have in our refrigerator.

For the family slumber party weekend, I made lasagna and The Pioneer Woman's spaghetti for lunch yesterday.  I came home with quite a bit of leftovers, so the plan is to eat up all the leftovers (no lasagna for me...  that has dairy in it, but I can have the spaghetti) until they're all gone.  Wednesday night we will have dinner at church again.  Then I will fill in the other nights we are out of leftovers with breakfast for dinner.  That will include most likely omelets/scrambled eggs/pancakes/waffles/basically whatever the family wants for "breakfast."

I will fill in each of these meals with the rest of our fresh vegetables from our co-op that we participate in.  So, I'd expect roasted cabbage one night, roasted cauliflower one night, and roasted eggplant another...

Have a great week!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Words to live by

We're on the tail-end of our annual family slumber party at my parents' house (I'd say I'll update more on that later, but lets be honest... I may or may not update). Today, after Bill and Kim left, we all sat around the table eating lunch and all gave a word or two to live by in 2013. I don't want to forget what everyone said, so I'm writing them all down.

No regrets - Kevin
First things first - Dad
Push on - Jon
Go big or stay home - Don
Make everything matter - me
Don't forget to flush - Levi (almost 5)
Always put your clothes away and don't leave anything out - Gracie (age 6)
Be healthy - Caroline (age 9)
Discipline but grace - Elissa
Back to the basics - Mom
Keep it simple - Christy

Words to live by, right?

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Meal Plan - Week of 1/6/13

So, this is my attempt at tracking my meal plans for the year. I like to try new recipes that I find on Pinterest or elsewhere online, but them I forget where I found the recipe and then I'm completely bummed because I don't have access to the yummy recipe anymore! So I'm going to start putting some of my recipes on here for my reference (& yours too, if you're interested).

Next weekend is my family's annual slumber party at my parents' house. I'm sure I will be responsible for at least some of the food, but we haven't planned out the weekend menu yet.

So, here this week's meal plan:

Monday - pork tenderloin with a peach-honey glaze (recipe below) and roasted cauliflower
Tuesday - chili
Wednesday - our church serves a meal on Wednesday nights for a nominal amount so that's what we normally do on Wednesdays
Thursday - Italian beef
Friday - family slumber party
Saturday - family slumber party
Sunday - family slumber party

Pork tenderloin (recipe from

Preheat oven to 500-550 degrees.
Put tenderloin in a roasting pan on the bottom third of the oven
Cook EXACTLY 5 1/2 minutes per pound of tenderloin
Without opening the oven, turn oven off and let the tenderloin sit in oven for an hour
Remove from the oven and let rest for 5-10 minutes.

Peach-honey glaze (recipe found here):

1 cup peach preserves
2 Tbsp honey
Juice of one small lemon

Bring to boil, then simmer for 2 minutes

I use glaze as more of a sauce than an actual glaze.

Bon appetit!